The ironworkers of 1700 central Germany did not know they were building the foundation of the industrial revolution. They did know that the results of their work would give their government power, though they would receive little of it. They knew that if they did not restart the economic disaster caused by the destruction of the 30 Years War, they would starve. They hoped, to the depth of their souls, that their labor would create a better world for their children.
The ten families, portrayed in “Ore and Origins,” left their ancestral homes to blend their dreams and efforts into a new era of prosperity. They filled various jobs at the Züscher-Hammer ironworks, the headquarters of visionary engineer Joseph Remacle de Hauzer. Once united in purpose, they stayed in one place for almost 200 years, dedicated to values of persistence, fortitude, and hard work.
They not only were dedicated to production in one company, they also liked each other. Perhaps in such an isolated mountainous region, finding spouses was limited. But, that was not the case, as there were many villages around that did influence. Marriage was more about business and property than it was about romance. Reading the marriage data, it is obvious that they were primarily arranged to improve the family circumstances.
These statistics tell the story of choices. Examining the relationships between the three interweaving surnames of Driessler, Schmitt, and Dellwo conveys a strategy.* Marjorie Dellwo has researched the family origins, tracing Dellwo to Belgium. She conveys that the Wallonian families were not afforded the same rights as the local families. History records that non-native families were not allowed to buy property. However, employers provided many perks such as free beer, hunting/fishing privileges, low rents, and freedom of travel. To keep the workers happy was worth it to the owners, who derived their power from the rich resources—but not to make them too happy!
Of these three families, only Dellwo was Wallonian (Belgian). The other two were native German families, with Driessler possessing the highest job status as a manager. Simon Schmitt was a tradesman, probably a blacksmith. (Note that there are some questions how the Schmitts all relate at the beginning, but their proximities of birth and location all line up.)
As these ambitious workers hoped, the 18th century at Züscher-Hammer, primarily was prosperous. Not so with the 19th. The early part of the century experienced droughts and a downslide of hammermill production. Later in the century Napoleon marched through the region. Sales continued to fall, products were scaled back, and workers were laid off. By 1840, only a handful were employed at the plant.
The Hünsruck Mountain region limped along. Many people bred horses, sought specialty trades, or went into other businesses. But when a dominant industry disappears, the community needs generations to recover through new initiatives. This assumes a time of peace where rebuilding is possible. That was not to be the case.
People became desperate as the economy headed for collapse. Again, political unrest was growing more turbulent—thus erupting into the German Revolution of 1848.The families found themselves on the losing side and faced a turning point. Politically oppressive repercussions must have made a horrible situation worse. The dedication of generations unraveled, as they turned their vision, hopes, and dreams elsewhere. There is also evidence of danger, coincidental with the failed Revolution. The combination of lost jobs, persecution, and bleak options, must have precipitated a decision that would change the history of families, reflecting the history of countries.
The first of these ancestors to leave was Johann Peter Schmitt in 1840, saving his twin teenage sons from draft into the Prussian Army. It is possible, based on the records of extended family, that many young Schmitt men perished. Longevity in those days was rare due to privations, and many of them may have joined the military to survive.
The young adults of these families, born in the 1830’s, were not going to tolerate such desperate conditions with no hope of a better future in sight. There became no reason to stay in Germany and invest in their homeland, which had to be anguishing. It may even have felt like giving up. Most had to plan for a year or two, saving up resources to make the journey and to fund a new start. Once purchasing the passage tickets, they knew they would never come back.
Johann Schmitt, Johann Peter’s nephew, exited from Darmstadt, which was a location of revolutionary uprising. He left fast and alone, unlike his cousins who left in groups. He was young, single, and a trained tradesman, who found opportunity in Milwaukee.
Almost 200 years of devotion to Züscher-Hammer ended with the family dividing, losing half of a generation to emigration. Examples like this get lost in the sensational histories of the famous. Yet the newspapers must have reported the final closing of the hammerworks in 1865. From the foreground of family, the strife and courage of these sketchy characters is today a whisper, while reflective of a drama no less significant of meaning.
Hopefully the conditions for those left behind improved when the population was reduced. They still had the resources of the Black Forest, and the centralized location on a major trade route. But needless to say, conditions in central Europe continued to be turbulent in the 19th century, leading up to a new devastation in the first half of the 20th.
Those who left Germany got what they expected: a new start, hard work, and eventual prosperity. They found a place without a continual cycle of destruction, a place where they could practice their beliefs without dictation, and where they could build a bright future for us. Now four, five, and even six, generations between us and them, we gain understanding of ourselves when we try to comprehend the world they changed. —always inspired, Liane
Please see “A Chart of Strategic Choices” that describes my design considerations for this illustration.
* This chart does not record ALL of the Züscher-Hammer worker descendants, marriages, or immigration. Spouses of those on this chart weave in more Wallonian surnames: Kölling (Collin), Monneau (Muno), and DeTemple. French families who migrated to Züscher-Hammer prior to the 30 Years War were also called upon in the rebuilding of the industry. They joined the growing genetic mix: Mathieu, Martin, and Dupre.
Please see the overview of the series “Ore and Origins: A Biography.”
These entries connect in a growing story:
“Ore and Origins” portrays ten pioneering families that converge in 1700. Their story begins with an aggressive French king, a desperate Rhennish Count, and an ambitious Belgian engineer. The fates of the ironworkers are intertwined with the complex political shiftings on the border between France and Germany at the dawn of the industrial era. The source of a pioneering spirit, these families made decisions that both changed family history as well as reflect the histories of countries. I explain further my reason for writing this story in the introduction “The Pioneers of the Pioneers: ironwork innovators.”
“Magnetic Migration: Ironworkers to Züsch” further explores the ten families introduced in “Ore and Origins” but I present a different map design to express the convergence of their migrations. Once assembling around 1700 to help revitalize the iron industry, they worked at one company—the Zücher-Hammer— for almost 200 years. They were witness, and victims, to the most significant political changes of their time.
“Pioneering Patriot” honors my 3x great grandfather who served in the Civil War. A refugee from the German Revolutionary turmoil of 1848, he arrived as a young man in Milwaukee around 1853, only to then volunteer again to fight for his beliefs ten years later. Though not famous, he sacrificed his health for his new country and his descendants will forever be grateful. I describe the more personal side of the story in the introduction “Rascal’s Revolt: A Memorial Tribute.”
“Symbolic Schmitt: A Surname Biography in Three Images” traces the source of the Rhineland Schmitt family. They first appear in the well-preserved village of Meisenheim as a large, well-rooted family. Probably blacksmiths, family members moved to nearby villages. Direct ancestors appear in Sötern, Saarland, then to join the rebuilding of Züscher-Hammer around 1700 in the Rhineland. I represent the family’s evolution through three iconic historic houses that date from the time that the family would have known. I discuss the drawings in the introduction “A Boast of Modesty.”
Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.